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IKEA 34 years on and why shoppers still love its famous meatballs

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It’s been more than 30 years since UK shoppers got their first chance to sample furniture retailer IKEA.

Set up by Ingvar Kamprad in 1948, the Swedish brand opened its first UK store in Warrington on October 1, 1987 – and for years has welcomed thousands of shoppers travelling from across Liverpool, Manchester and further afield.

The flat-pack furniture maze has overtime become a place where couples have argued over who will assemble their new wardrobe, kids have begged for meatballs and parents have kitted their teenagers out before they leave the nest for student accommodation.

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The retailing giant had a hand in introducing shoppers from Liverpool and around the North West to the concept that furniture could be stylish, yet affordable.

Renowned for its ready-to-assemble furniture and homewares, IKEA launched in the UK when the Gemini Retail Park first opened its doors.

In May 1987, the basic structure of the IKEA Warrington building was complete and a few months later, the store began to recruit the staff for its official opening in October.



Opening day of IKEA Warrington. October 1, 1987
Opening day of IKEA in Warrington. October 1, 1987

In time for opening day, staff worked to finish a number of room set layouts and furniture displays, which included a POEM chair and stool, a two seater sofa with a snazzy print and a classic wood dining set.

When the staff arrived at 5am on opening day, the car park was already full with customers eager to visit the store. Some even camped outside 72 hours before, as the first 50 customers could have a sofa for £25.



Opening day of IKEA Warrington. October 1, 1987
Opening day of IKEA in Warrington. October 1, 1987

And it wasn’t long before going round to a friend’s house was like entering an IKEA catalogue.

At the time, it wasn’t unusual to go to somebody else’s home and find yourself drinking a cup of tea from the same style mug or glancing up at the same poster as you sat on the same sofa you bought just days before.

And its popularity hasn’t dwindled – with queues still a regular sight, especially on a weekend.



IKEA POEM Chair and Stool, available at the furniture giants new UK Store in Warrington, opening tomorrow (1st October). Preview, September 30, 1987
IKEA POEM Chair and Stool, available at the furniture giants new UK Store in Warrington, opening October 1. Preview, September 30, 1987

In the late 80s and early 90s, before soft play centres were everywhere, IKEA endeared itself to kids with a ball pit at the front of the store – and the chance to sit on every chair and lie on every bed before a trip to the cafe.

Most customers will have entered with a bag but ended up needing a trolley and families will have questioned if they really need to buy another plastic plant.

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A trip to the store can feel like a day’s work in itself – until you return home and it dawns on you that the real hard work is yet to begin.

In 34 years, so many people across Merseyside have shopped at Warrington’s IKEA that it’s almost become a rite of passage.

T he ECHO has launched a new 56-page nostalgia supplement in print. It’s packed with photos from the recent past and the not-so-recent, from shopping, fashion and music to the Albert Dock – plus an elephant on parade in Woolton. You can order a copy here.



IKEA Furniture Retailer, opens its first UK store in Warrington, Thursday 1st October 1987, Welcome To Warrington is the message from Irene Stewart, who joined a group of residents to say hello to the new superstore. Also in attendance, to mark the occasion of the Swedish giant's UK opening was Scandinavian ambassador Leif Leifland (left) and Professor Alan Mercer, chairman of Warrington New Town
IKEA Furniture Retailer, opens its first UK store in Warrington, Thursday 1st October 1987. Welcome To Warrington is the message from Irene Stewart, who joined a group of residents to say hello to the new superstore. Also in attendance, to mark the occasion of the Swedish giant’s UK opening was Scandinavian ambassador Leif Leifland (left) and Professor Alan Mercer, chairman of Warrington New Town

Today, IKEA Warrington continues to sell a wide range of homeware, accessories and products in its warehouse and paved the way for other stores in locations such as London, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Belfast, Birmingham and Cardiff.

Do you remember when Ikea first opened in the North West? Let us know in the comments section below.

And there’s still no better way to end a hard day’s shopping than with a steaming plate of Swedish meatballs, chips, peas, sauce, and lots of lingonberry jam.



Two seater sofa available at the furniture giants new UK Store in Warrington, opening Thursday, October 1, 1987
Two seater sofa available at the furniture giants new UK Store in Warrington, opening October 1, 1987

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Three decades later, IKEA Warrington is one of the must visit stores for thousands of people across the North West and remains popular with new home owners, families, couples and more from Merseyside.

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